Saturday, January 03, 2015


Treasured Memories of Doling Park

During the 1970s, students at Ash Grove’s elementary school annually enjoyed a year-end picnic at Doling Park complete with sack lunches and Hiland orange drink. Doing Park in north Springfield became synonymous with cotton candy, dime pinball, skee ball, the Wild Mouse roller coaster, bread eating ducks and roller skating.

I drove to Doling Park last week. The setting has changed -- the rides and games are gone -- but my past memories remain crystal clear regarding the fun times I had in that unique setting.  I recall spending hours -- and probably several dollars of dimes -- playing skee ball with Jerry Dyson, a childhood friend. The skee ball machines at Doling Park were uniquely worn and sometimes generous, providing us with a free game or two. Hitting the elusive 100 point hole was cause for celebration, even if we did climb up the ramp occasionally and manually drop a wooden skee ball in the appropriate hole. Whether we were playing games, running around Doling Lake, or simply having a sack lunch, the day trip to Doling Park always provided hours of fun and independence.

Nowadays, instead of school outings to Doling Park my family goes to Silver Dollar City. One of the greatest attractions there are the roller coasters. Somehow, during my junior high years, I was able to conquer my extreme fear of roller coasters, a fear that may be traced back to Doling Park. I can still recall the sheer terror I felt as a second grader riding the Wild Mouse. After surviving the curves and dips on this rattling ride I was never sure why I actually paid money to experience terror. Other rides -- like the small train and the merry-go-round -- induced far less fear and marked the extreme limits of my thrill-seeking for years to come.

Roller skating at Doling was like traveling back in time to the 1950s. Springfield had two modern roller rinks --Skateland and Skate Corral -- both of which featured slick concrete floors and modern disco lights. That was not the case at Doling Park. The character of this arena was in its worn wood floor and the airplane hanger style building. By the time I was in the sixth grade I still had not mastered roller skating anywhere else except on those wooden floors at Doling.

As a youngster, the whistle of the teacher would beckon us back to the school bus and for our trip back to Ash Grove. Now, the demands of life, family, church and civic groups pull at my free time. Oh, to have one more chance to run around Doling Lake scaring the ducks and geese, stopping only to peak through the iron and wire gates deep into the cave, before scrambling on toward the picnic tables. Unfortunately, I can’t call back time or restore my youth, but my memories allow me to recall my days of youth and fun trips to Doling Park. If a close my eyes real tight I can still imagine being a child at Dolin, spending dimes on skee ball, roller skating, and having a carefree day with friends. Those are treasured memories.

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